This & That
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by Karen Bemowski, [email protected]
Scripting News (Really!)
Like you, I find scripting an engaging topic, but let's face it--when talking shop with fellow scripters, not many discussions about current events slip into the conversation. In the next few weeks, however, two noteworthy events might become a hot topic among scripters.
The first is that Microsoft is acquiring Winternals Software, a company that offers systems-recovery and data-protection solutions. More important, Microsoft is also acquiring Sysinternals, Winternals' freeware Web site. Many scripters use Sysinternals freeware--such as the Autoruns tool and the tools in the PsTools suite--in their scripts.
Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell founded both Winternals and Sysinternals. Mark will join the Microsoft Platforms and Services Division as a technical fellow. Bryce will join Microsoft's Windows Component Platform Team as a software architect.
While this acquisition is good for Mark and Bryce, you might be wondering whether it's bad for you. It begs the question, "What's going to happen to Sysinternals and its free tools?" In his Sysinternals blog, Mark writes, "...the site will remain for the time being while Microsoft determines the best way to integrate it into its own community efforts, and the tools will continue to be free to download." To read Mark's blog about the acquisition, go to http://www.sysinternals.com/blog/2006/07/on-my-way-to-microsoft.html . You can read the official Winternals press release about the acquisition at http://www.winternals.com/Company/PressRelease92.aspx.
The second noteworthy event that might crawl into your scripting conversations is the discovery of another Windows PowerShell worm. (The first was reported about a year ago.) In the article "Hackers Try to Crack Windows PowerShell" (http://news.com.com/Hackers+try+to+crack+Windows+PowerShell/2100-1002_3-6101106.html), CNET News.com reports that security software giant McAfee has detected a worm called MSH/Cibyzvirus, which targets PowerShell. The article states that, "The worm doesn't exploit a specific security hole in PowerShell. Instead, it abuses the product's ability to execute scripts by attempting to trick users into downloading and running malicious code. To do this, it uses a series of product names that may be attractive to Kazaa users. If run, the worm will overwrite some file types, change registry details and place itself in the machine's Kazaa shared folder in order to spread."
The only information I can find about the worm on the Microsoft Web site is in the Windows PowerShell blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/powershell/archive/2006/08/03/687838.aspx). To begin, the blog notes that the PowerShell worm won't work on and can't infect PowerShell in its default configuration. "This is a proof-of-concept virus whose 'Worm' replication mode is just a simple file copy and could have been implemented in any language which supports copying files. The fact that the worm is written in PowerShell rather than another scripting language or even as an executable has actually made it even harder for this virus to spread since the additional security features around PowerShell scripts result in many additional steps for the user to perform before an infection can take place."
The blog goes on to say that, "Unlike some worms, the so-called 'PowerShell Worm' does not take advantage of any vulnerability within PowerShell to spread automatically. Although classified as a worm the PowerShell Worm depends upon the user performing a series of fairly complex set of steps to circumvent and disable the numerous security features of PowerShell before any infection can take place."
There you have it--two news tidbits that you can talk to your fellow scripters about if you haven't already done so. However, I don't advise that you work it into a conversation with your family or friends. They'll likely have that "Yeah--so what?" expression on their face. They don't know what they're missing.
This & That
New Blog by T-SQL Guru Itzik Ben-Gan
If you use T-SQL in your scripting projects, you'll want to check out Itzik Ben-Gan's new "Puzzled by T-SQL" blog. Currently, Itzik has posted a three-part blog titled "Quaere Verum - Clustered Index Scans." Besides covering technical topics, Itzik plans to include his famous puzzles as well as personal insights. You can find his blog at http://www.sqlmag.com/blog/index.cfm?action=blogindex&DepartmentID=1016.
Take the Windows IT Pro or SQL Server Magazine Salary Survey
We need your help! Windows IT Pro and SQL Server Magazine are launching their third annual Industry Salary Surveys. They want to find out all about you and what makes you a satisfied IT or database professional. When you complete the survey (about 10 minutes of your time), you'll be entered in a drawing for one of five $100 American Express gift certificates. Look for the survey results--and see how you stack up against your peers--in the December issue of Windows IT Pro and SQL Server Magazine. If you're an IT professional, take the Windows IT Pro salary survey at https://websurveyor.net/wsb.dll/12237/WITPSalarySurvey06.htm. If you're a database professional, take the SQL Server Magazine salary survey at https://websurveyor.net/wsb.dll/12237/SQLSalarySurvey06.htm.
T-SQL Function to the Rescue
If you need to extract plain text out of strings that contain markup-language formatting, you can let the ScrapeText function do all the work for you. This T-SQL function accepts an HTML string as input and returns a plain text string. Learn more about this function in the Reader to Reader article "Pull Out Text from HTML Code" in the September issue of SQL Server Magazine.
Save Time and Aggravation with These Debugging Tools
In scripts, calls to external programs are useful, yet challenging to debug. These calls make many tasks possible, ranging from simple tasks (such as stringing together commands) to complex tasks (such as joining several specialized programs so that they work as a unit). Many complications can arise to increase the challenge:
To debug calls to external programs, I created a stand-in program named WinDummy that you can call in place of the real program. WinDummy parses the command line and lists the parameters exactly the way the real program will see them. If your script calls several programs, you can copy and rename WinDummy as many times as needed. You can run WinDummy from any directory because it requires no support files.
I also created a companion program, WWSimStatus, that simulates status codes returned by external programs, such as xcopy.exe. With WWSimStatus, you have an easy, safe way to simulate any status code generated by an external program.
You can use WinDummy and WWSimStatus to test any script that calls an external program, including VBScript, Perl, and Windows shell (.bat and .cmd) scripts. You can also use WinDummy and WWSimStatus to test programs such as Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros and custom standalone programs written in Visual Basic (VB), C, or any other programming language.
Since I created WinDummy in 2002, it has earned its keep. Before long, I expect to feel the same way about WWSimStatus. Both programs are freeware. You can download WinDummy at http://www.wizardwrx.com/FREEBIES/WinDummy.html . You can download WWSimStatus at http://www.wizardwrx.com/FREEBIES/WWSimStatus.html . I hope that these programs can save you many hours and much grief.
Editor's Note: Thanks to David Gray for sharing his freeware programs. David had sent in an article about them in response to the "I Want YOU!" call for submissions (http://www.windowsitpro.com/Windows/Article/ArticleID/49902/49902.html). An expanded version of this article will appear in the September issue of Windows Scripting Solutions, for which he'll receive $100. If you have any scripts or code you'd like considered, please send them to me at [email protected] or [email protected]
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